INDIA – Person of Indian Origin (PIO) Scheme Merged with Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) Scheme
The government of India has merged the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) schemes.
An ordinance of 6 January 2015, amending the Indian Citizenship Act, unified the two schemes and, on 9 January 2015, the immediate withdrawal of the PIO scheme was announced, and all existing PIO card holders granted OCI status, with lifelong multiple-entry visas and exemption from police registration procedures.
What Has Changed?
Effective 9 January 2015, all existing PIO card holders are now deemed to be OCI card holders. Other rules and procedures for existing PIO card holders are yet to be finalised.
Other changes announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs are as follows:
- The foreign national children of two Indian citizens will now be eligible to apply for OCI. Previously, only children with at least one OCI parent qualified for the OCI card;
- The great-grandchildren of individuals eligible for OCI will now also be eligible to apply for OCI. Only children and grandchildren of eligible OCI-eligible foreign nationals were previously eligible;
- Foreign nationals married to OCI card holders or Indian citizens, whose marriage has been registered and has existed for two years or more, will now be eligible to apply for OCI status. Previously, those married for only one year were eligible;
- Nationals of Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, Iran, Nepal and Sri Lanka, previously ineligible for the PIO card, remain eligible for the OCI card. Nationals of Pakistan and Bangladesh remain ineligible.
The Person of Indian Origin (PIO) Card
The PIO was first issued in 2002 to foreign nationals who could prove their Indian origin up to three generations before, and the spouses of Indian citizens and PIO card holders, as long as they had never been citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan or Sri Lanka.
The PIO was valid for 15 years until 30 September 2014, when its validity was brought into line with that of the OCI (see below).
The Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) Card
The OCI was first issued in August 2005, and may henceforth be held by former Indian citizens, those who can prove their Indian origin up to three generations before, and the spouses of Indian citizens and OCIs (for at least two continuous years), and their minor children.
The OCI is valid for the holder’s lifetime and is accompanied by a lifelong multiple entry visa to India, with no requirement to report to the FRRO, regardless of length of stay.
- PIO applications that are already in progress should be resubmitted as OCI applications.